Israel’s far-right government has approved a NIS 150 million ($45 million) plan to combat the spread of violence and organized crime in Arab cities and towns, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Monday evening, March 1.
When this plan was revealed in early February, List chair MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) commented: “Netanyahu is offering us a band-aid… It’s impossible to solve a decade of neglect with NIS 100 million.” The annual budget of the Israeli police is around NIS 13 billion.
A wave of demonstrations by Arabs citizens protesting governmental and police neglect has brought the issue to the forefront in recent weeks. Umm al-Fahm, an Arab city in Israel’s Northern Triangle region, has seen seven straight weeks of Friday protests following the shooting death of Mohammad Aghbarieh, 21, a resident of the city who was killed while on his way home from an anti-violence demonstration that was being forcefully dispersed by police.
Medical sources have confirmed that at least 35 protesters were injured during the protest held in Umm al-Fahm last Friday, February 26, among them Joint List MK Youssef Jabareen (Hadash). Jabareen, who was hit in the back by a police-fired rubber bullet during the protest and was rushed to a local hospital and released later in the evening, said “The government plan authorized by Netanyahu is a totally inadequate one that won’t solve anything regarding crime and violence in Arab society. Its only purpose is to gain votes.”
Officials from Umm al-Fahm’s municipality and from the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, a top panel of Arab-Palestinian community leaders, decided in a meeting last Saturday that protests will continue this coming Friday, and demanded that an independent inquiry commission into last week’s s violent repression of the protestors by police be established immediately.
Since the beginning of 2021, 21 Arabs have been killed in violent circumstances inside Israel: 15 Arab citizens of Israel, four Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem, and two Palestinian West Bank residents killed inside Israel. Three of them were killed in violent confrontations with police; the remaining 18 died violent deaths perpetrated by criminal gangs within the Arab community.